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Re: Single Family Housing Design

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Oh....... how global & chronic this condition is!!!!!.  And I've yet to meet an engineer courageous enough to tackle the beast!

Thor Tandy
Victoria  BC

-----Original Message-----
From: Charles Greenlaw <cgreenlaw(--nospam--at)>
To: seaint(--nospam--at) <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Date: Sunday, August 16, 1998 5:49 PM
Subject: Re: Single Family Housing Design

>On 8/15/98 EDT, Mel Slaysman asked:
>>In Arizona single family houses may be designed by non registrants (etc.)
>>The building departments can and often do require certain structural portions
>>of the building to be checked and sealed by an engineer.  This may range from
>>only one beam in question or the entire structure including a lateral
>>analysis.  I would like input from other states as to what is the practice and
>>law in their states regarding design of single family housing.  Is it
>>regulated in your state and if so how?
>As to California, first a link to Calif Statutes and Administrative
>Regulations: The Calif PE Board's website is
>Once you are there, you can view the PE Act and Board Rules. And you can
>move on into other statutes and regs, via links therein. (I did that one
>Saturday to find out how much discretion the CA legislature vests in local
>building officials to interpret and rule on building matters. Lots! It was
>in Health and Safety Code, in the 17000 -series of sections, as I recall.)
>        The Regulatory Framework:
>The Calif PE Act was first enacted in 1929 and only covered civil
>engineering. (I have a copy of that 1929 Act, and a portion of the first CE
>Board's report to the legislature on how they came up with their definition
>of civil engineering, which remains in effect today, little altered.)
>Design of buildings was within restricted civil engineering practice from
>the first, with no exemption being stated for residential buildings.
>Architects however could do all building design, as covered by their
>already-existing act. Apparently everybody took it for granted that houses
>weren't required to be engineered, and customarily weren't, such that no
>expressed exemption was deemed necessary. (You know, mechanics fix cars, and
>carpenters build houses.)
>Presumably however the lack of a specific exemption from the PE Act for
>houses and minor buildings had become an administrative nuisance by the
>early 1950's, and by 1955 the legislature had provided one. It is now in
>Sect 6737.1 of Bus. and Prof.Code (the PE Act) and was amended in 1985 to
>narrow the scope of the exemption, and to cover when engineering of
>non-exempt *portions* is necessary and how the documents for the engineered
>portions are to be signed and stamped.
>        How it works and then gets misused:
>Under the CA exemption, and consistent with UBC, a woodframe house starts
>out "empty" of engineered content. To the extent that its features of
>construction depart from the building code's prescriptive "conventional
>construction", engineering must be added. (And of course clients can ask for
>some engineering for reasons of their own.) So the "glass" of engineering
>content gets filled part way up. But not all the way up.
>Now comes some interested party to the project (such as the original or
>later purchaser) who claims to be unhappy over some aspect of things --it
>hardly matters what. A lawsuit and/or a complaint to the Engineers Board is
>>From this, the engineer gets attacked because the glass of engineering
>content isn't full, it's part empty. It is often wrongly assumed that the
>engineer is derelict for not engineering everything in the house the way an
>institutional or high-end commercial building would be engineered. Plaintiff
>and prosecutor experts are chosen for their comfort with the most stringent
>forms of woodframe engineering, and their lack of understanding of the PE
>Act. These experts duly show how appalled they are at the supposedly spotty,
>incomplete, simplified and "inaccurate" work done by the engineer on the hot
>Yet "partial engineering" (to be authenticated by signing and stamping the
>documents showing those portions) is *official public policy* as enacted by
>the legislature here, with SEAOC blessings. And that policy is consistent
>with how the house building and house buying public wants it, in my opinion.
>It's only at odds with the predator industry, including PE Board
>enforcement, and with engineers who have visions of perfection and/or a
>professional featherbedding ambition.
>        (The above comments are from a portion of a personal reply to Mr
>Slaysman and previously to another engineer; the balance is in the Seaint
>archive where Dennis Wish suggested looking.)
>Charles O. Greenlaw, SE    Sacramento CA